Last October 2 marked a milestone in trade and diplomatic relations between the US and Morocco. That day, both countries signed a “historic” agreement of character military to implement in the next decade.
The ultimate goal of the US Government is to strengthen defense cooperation and prepare the nation governed by Mohamed VI as the best-equipped North African country militarily, bearing in mind that the US Administration is already the largest supplier of weapons to Morocco.
Magazine Forbes published that “Morocco was the largest US arms customer in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2019,” and that “Washington reached arms deals with Rabat worth about 10.3 billion dollars last year ”.
In this way, with the new rubrics in 2020, Morocco has designed the roadmap for the next decade in North Africa with cooperation in different areas: “Freedom of navigation, intelligence sharing and disaster response operations,” according to the Pentagon. To this can be added, according to sources from Rabat, the “Acquisition and manufacture of weapons material”.
In this way, the Moroccan military commitment to the US machinery will strengthen in the next ten years. And Morocco will benefit from many privileges.
The first is to guarantee the “exclusivity” of US military supplies for the benefit of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, especially with regard to the F-16, to which the US is introducing a series of technical and technological modifications.
Likewise, it will have the possibility to get the changes of the 6×6 Cougars armored tanks and the MIM-104 Patriot long-range surface-to-air missile system, exclusively for Africa.
Morocco is among the 22 countries that will acquire advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) in a contract worth 768 million dollars to be completed in February 2023, as confirmed by the US Department of Defense.
“The contract provides for the production of AMRAAM missiles, captive air training missiles, guidance sections, AMRAAM telemetry system, spare parts and other production engineering support hardware,” the Pentagon department reported in a statement in late 2019.
In addition, this agreement will allow the development of Moroccan hardware and its opening to the American market. In turn, “the Moroccan military modernization will open the doors to enter the club of countries that have fourth generation aircraft with AESA radars, very similar to the F-35, the jewel of the fifth generation of the American army”, published last week the Moroccan digital Hespress.
From the Moroccan intelligence they point out to EL ESPAÑOL that “in this decade Morocco you will be able to acquire the F-35s. And, although the agreement is not specified, in some way it would mean recognizing the State of Israel, as has happened with the United Arab Emirates ”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the sale of the F-35s or any advanced weapons to any Middle Eastern country without previously recognizing the State of Israel.
Spain needs F-35
In addition to Spain’s concern about the acquisition in its neighboring country of 36 Apache helicopters and more than 200 M1 Abrams combat tanks, there is now the possibility after this alliance of acquiring the best and most expensive F-35 aircraft, to the that few countries have access. There are currently only half a thousand operations in about twenty bases around the world and about a thousand pilots trained to maneuver them.
In this new context, it is imperative that Spain Acquire F-35s before 2030, according to several military statements. The purchase of these aircraft for both the Spanish Navy and the Air Force has been raised on numerous occasions because it is the only option to replace the Harriers as a fixed-wing element on board the Juan Carlos I ship.
The second chief of the Navy General Staff, Admiral Jose Luis Urcelay, manifested in an interview with Infodefensa TV last September the need to replace the Harrier fighter jets by the fifth generation F-35 aircraft “because if not in the year 2030 we will have been left alone in the world with this helicopter ”.
Therefore, he confessed: “We are developing the entire conceptual process to reach a situation in which Spain can access these aircraft, which are essential if we want to maintain amphibious capacity in our Navy.”
Fear of guns
But, in addition, one of the fears in Madrid is the possibility that Morocco also join the club of arms producing countries. This would pose a threat to their strategic and vital interests in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Something that the deputy minister in charge of national defense revealed, Abdeltif Loudyi, by proposing “to consolidate military cooperation with the United States by promoting joint investment projects in Morocco in the defense industry sector, with a view to promoting technology transfer and gradually building the country’s strategic autonomy in this area” .
And it is that the United States will give the Maghreb country the keys to manufacture weapons with American technology, with which it will build drones and radars. For example, as EL ESPAÑOL has learned, Washington will transfer the RQ-4 technology to the manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and attack. It is the largest drone in the world of the US military.
Considered the “spy plane” contemporary, it carries out the so-called ISR missions: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of land and sea spaces by day and night and up to 34 hours in a row.
NSA and CIA collaboration
The agreement also includes a cybersecurity and cyber defense collaboration. In the expansion of the Alcaz naval base, in the north of Morocco, a few kilometers from Ceuta, the National Security Agency (NSA) will be installed, the intelligence of the American naval navy attached to the Department of Defense, and also the CIA will expand its personnel and its intelligence units.
The NSA intercepts the communications of other countries and secures the communications of the Government of USA, both internally and with its allies. Almost all the information regarding this agency is classified and the exact number of its employees and their locations is unknown, although it is known that it has stations in American bases deployed around the world and also in the military bases of its allies, at least in 35 countries.
According to sources consulted by EL ESPAÑOL, in Morocco “will be installed in the naval base of Alcazaseguir to control the transit through the Strait of Gibraltar, but, in addition, they will build an American military base, presumably in the north-eastern part of the country ”.
The inspector general of the Royal Armed Forces, Abdelfettah Louarak, He specified in a statement that “the cooperation includes the organization of combined exercises, the exchange of information visits and the participation in various trainings and training practices.”
He also highlighted the importance of the African Lion multilateral exercises, known throughout the region as essential maneuvers for several countries, which this year were not carried out due to the closing of the borders due to the pandemic. Normally, they spread in the south of Morocco, but in the future its scope will be extended to the Sahel.
From the headquarters of the Department of Defense they explained that the agreement took two years to negotiate and could serve as a model for future US pacts with other governments in Africa.
In Morocco The agreement was signed during a three-day visit to Rabat by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in early October. For the US Administration, “Morocco is a strategic ally outside of NATO and a gateway to the African continent,” said Esper.
He added that “for trade links and exchanges, we must strengthen our defense capabilities and develop partnerships with African governments,” recalling that “Morocco is a leader in this area.” Nevertheless, Algeria, its great rival in the region, is still the greatest military power on the African continent.
Esper also visited Tunisia and Algeria during the same tour of North Africa. He signed another military agreement with Tunisia, while with Algeria, where Americans have not traveled since 2006 and which they consider an important ally in the fight against terrorism, Esper met with the president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and with the head of the Army, General Saïd Chengriha. He discussed the expansion of security cooperation and the problems in the Sahel region.
This trip is analyzed as a gesture to invite Algeria, one of the main investors in military equipment, to come closer to the strategic orbit of the United States.
Unlike Morocco and Tunisia, Algeria it turns mainly to Russia to equip its armed forces. It also maintains very good relations with China, which is its main commercial supplier, with exports that exceeded 500 million euros in January 2020, 18% of Algerian imports.
The former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was overthrown in 2019 by popular protests; the country’s draft Constitution, if approved, would allow him to deploy his troops outside the country’s borders.
In any case, although the US formally considers Morocco and Tunisia As non-NATO allies, it is not clear that Algeria intends to move to join its neighbors in the short term.
In this way, the Americans seek to strengthen their partnerships in North Africa amid Russia’s growing military presence in the Mediterranean and amid Moscow and Beijing’s interests on the African continent. In addition, they work for security in North Africa, the Sahel and Libya.
Counter Terrorism Office
Apart from this agreement, other pacts between Morocco and the US have been sealed in recent times. In September, the Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, and the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, they presided by videoconference the signing of another bilateral agreement to consolidate the diplomatic privileges and immunity of both parties. The next American consulate will open in Casablanca and construction will begin this year.
Regarding the security aspect, the new American ambassador in Rabat, David T. Fischer, stressed that “the US and Morocco remain determined in their intention to promote religious freedom and fight against violent extremism.”
Thus, on October 6, the United Nations Office Against Terrorism (UNOCT) and Morocco signed an agreement on their establishment in Rabat to develop counter-terrorism capacity and cooperation in Africa.
The training center will design and deliver specialized anti-terrorism and law enforcement programs to requesting member states in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, with an initial focus on the Sahel. In addition, it will develop national counter-terrorism curricula in line with human rights.
As EL ESPAÑOL has learned, Abdellatif Hammouchi, in command of the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN), decorated by the Spanish and French governments for his fight against terrorism, he is the strongest candidate to run this training center.
The friendship treaty between both countries dates from 1786 and renegotiated in 1836. Ambassador Fischer already defended last summer before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the North American Senate that this association is “vital” and “must be consolidated” economically and politically, as well as in terms of security cooperation. To which Mark Esper of the Pentagon added in his recent visit to Rabat: “In many respects, Morocco is the first friendly country of the United States of America.”